Currently more than 170 journalists and members of the media are in prison today in Turkey. Jørgen Lorentzen from the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee has been in Turkey recently and has collected information on the stories and current situation of some of these journalists, such as the case of Ali Bulac.
Ali Bulac, born in Mardin, Turkey in 1951, is a columnist and a journalist who has written in daily papers such as Yeni Safak, Zaman, Milli Gazete and others. He is a sociologist, theologist, writer, columnist and a journalist who has declared his thoughts and opinions over the past four decades in various papers, magazines and other platforms. He completed his higher education in 1975 at Istanbul University, Faculty of Divinity and also studied at the same university, Faculty of Literature, Sociology which he completed in 1980. He worked for a while at an opinion/art journal called Hareket (Movement) which was founded by Nurettin Topcu. Then he founded Düşünce Dergisi (Thought Magazine) and Düşünce Yayinlari (Thought Publishing House) in 1976. Between the years 1978 – 1980, his articles were published in many periodical magazines i.e. Tevhid, Hicret, Şura etc. Between the years 1985 – 1992, he founded a monthly magazine named Kitap (Book) and a quarterly magazine named Bilgi ve Hikmet (Knowledge and Wisdom). He was editor in chief of both magazines. When the daily Zaman was established in 1987, he worked as editor in chief in its Istanbul office for a year. At the end of 1987, when the owners of Zaman paper changed he left the paper but returned to the paper and worked as a columnist in 1993. However, after a short while he left the paper again. In 1998, he restarted to write in the daily Zaman once again. In addition to the daily Zaman he wrote in daily papers, namely Milli Gazete and Yeni Safak. His articles were also published in various magazines during the same period. In 1988, he was honoured the “Opinion Award” by the Writers Union of Turkey for his book İnsanın Özgürlük Arayışı (Man’s Freedom Quest). He was a columnist at the daily Zaman and Today’s Zaman. To date, he has written 24 books and has also produced hundreds of articles. Apart from these, he has recently completed a Tafsir (Quranic Exegesis) in 2016. He has participated in periodic TV programs at Mehtap TV, Hilal TV, TVNET, Kanal D with intellectuals/journalist such as Taha Akyol, Gulay Gokturk, Ahmet Turan Alkan, Yalcin Dogan etc. Some of his books have been translated into English, Bosnian etc.
The prosecutor claims that Bulac, along with Sahin Alpay and others, is a member of FETO terrorist organization, supported the bloody coup in June 2016, attempted to destroy the constitutional order of Turkey by writing with a terrorist organization conscious on Zaman daily which is deemed to be FETO’s media arm. The indictment shows some sentences from Bulac’s six columns evidencing his claims and holds him, as well as other journalists, responsible. As a result, he seeks 3 times life sentence in addition to jail for up to 15 years. The indictment against Ali Bulac, Sahin Alpay, Ahmet Turan Alkan etc., is full of inconsistencies. In the end, these journalists are being held responsible for their columns, articles and nothing more.
Bulac was taken into custody on 27th July 2016 and later was arrested on 30th July 2016. Since then he is in Silivri Prison waiting for the trial which is on 18th September 2017. 14 months later he will have the opportunity to defend himself. During the past one year his lawyer has prepared objection letters several times and submitted them to Peace Court of Criminal Jurisdiction of Istanbul but, unfortunately, they have all been rejected. He applied to European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in March 2017. ECtHR accepted his application on 14th June 2017 along with the applications of the Altan Brothers, Nazli Ilicak, Sahin Alpay, Atilla Tas and Murat Aksoy.
The full indictment is about 90 pages; however, addendums amount to around 12,000 pages. Bulac’s lawyer can see him only 1 hour a week. Taking into account the size of the indictment, especially the addendums and the seriousness of allegations against Bulac, naturally 1-hour meetings with the lawyer do not suffice to prepare a proper defense.
His immediate family can see him once a week for just 1 hour behind the glass and once a month openly. Meetings with the lawyer are being conducted with the company of an officer from the prison. All meetings, except the open ones which are once a month, are recorded. Since he was imprisoned 1 year ago he has not been able to work, hence he has been harmed financially. His assets, bank accounts were frozen for about 9 months, very recently were released.
Unfortunately Ali Bulac’s case is representative of the hostile climate towards freedom of expression in Turkey and it is part of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee’s work to follow up on as many trials as possible, as well as raise awareness among the public of the current situation in Turkey.